Wyong trainer Damien Lane has just completed his best ever season and is looking to make an immediate impact on the new racing year when his in-form ‘miler’ Mr McBat lines up in Thursday’s $80,000 Carlton Draught Coffs Harbour Gold Cup (1600m).
Lane finished the 2016-17 season with 35 winners, placing him in the top 25 trainers on the NSW premiership ladder.
Mr McBat has played his part in the stable’s success winning three races this campaign, including impressive wins in the $25,000 Wingham Cup (1600m) at Taree on June 2 and last start in the $52,000 South Grafton Cup (1610m) on July 9.
The South Grafton Cup win and stablemate Johnny Roo Boy’s victory a few days earlier in the $50,000 Sir James Kirby Handicap (1000m) earned Lane the Trainer of the Carnival award at Grafton.
“I’ve just had my best season by far with 35 winners – I think my previous best was around 14 – and it was great to make my first trip to the Grafton carnival and get those two good results,” said Lane, who has been based at Wyong since 2008.
“Thursday will also be the first time I’ve had runners at Coffs Harbour, so hopefully we get similar results as we did at Grafton. We stayed at Coffs Harbour on the way up to the Grafton carnival, so Mr McBat has had a feel of that track already.”
Lane admits Mr McBat has surprised him a little this preparation, although the gelding has always shown some ability.
“He was originally trained by Stephen Farley and I’ve had him about 12 months,” he said. “He’s really been his own worst enemy in the past. He always seemed to find some bad luck and would always be charging home, but found it hard to win.
“But this preparation his only bad runs have been on wet tracks. His runs on dry tracks have all been great and he’s really been dominant at his last two wins over the mile in the Wingham Cup and then in the South Grafton Cup.”
Experienced Queensland jockey Jason Taylor linked up with Lane for the first time during the Grafton carnival and will again partner Mr McBat on Thursday, as well as stablemate All But Gone who runs in the $40,000 Coffs Harbour Toyota Daniel Baker Sprint (1200m).
“Ben Looker had ridden Mr McBat to win the Wingham Cup but he was committed to Sofin in the South Grafton Cup,” said Lane. “I tried to book a couple of other jockeys without success but then Jason’s manager rang me for the ride. Jason won on both Mr McBat and Johnny Roo Boy and also ran second on All But Gone.”
Lane rates the David Pfieffer-trained topweight Pelethronius, unbeaten in four starts this campaign, and the Shannon Fry-trained Sofin as the two who look the hardest to beat in Thursday’s race.
Sofin, lining up for her third crack at the Coffs Harbour after finishing fourth to Our Boy Nicholas in 2015 and fourth again last year behind Bodega Negra, was a well-beaten second behind Mr McBat in the South Grafton Cup.
“Pelethronius does look hard to beat, but he still has to carry 61.5kg and Mr McBat who I think is well-weighted with 55.5kg and has only gone up 1.5kg on his South Grafton Cup win,” he said.
“And I’m sure Sofin can improve (on her South Grafton Cup second) at her third run in this prep. Mr McBat’s drawn out a bit (gate 13) but I’m not too concerned as he’s a get-back horse anyway.”
Lane said the $80,000 Taree Cup (2000m) on August 20 could be next on the agenda if Mr McBat comes through Thursday’s race in good order: “I’m not sure about him at 2000m. We’ll see how Thursday’s race pans out first but the Taree Cup could be his next target,” he said.
The eight-race Coffs Harbour Showcase meeting also features the $40,000 Daniel Baker Sprint (1200m), the $35,000 Schweppes Ken Howard Cup (2000m) and the $35,000 Eagles Coffs Harbour Plumbing Blinkan Missit (800m).
Grand old sprinter Plateau Gold, trained locally by Jim Jarvis, is chasing his second win in the Blinkan Missit and will carry 62kg after apprentice Jarrod Woodhouse’s claim.